Wildermyth Early Access

Wildermyth popped up in my Steam discovery queue at some point in the last few months, and when I see games I find interesting I tend to add them to my wishlist for later. Quarantine is definitely one of those “for later” situations, and as the game is only running $20 I pulled the trigger on it. I’ve been jamming through some games during this period of the wild indoors, but I’ve been looking for varied experiences to keep me engaged. As such, I’ve actually been looking into playing some of the games in my backlog that are different from what I’ve been playing lately. First person shooters will always be a love of mine, but sometimes I want something more laid back and story-rich. Wildermyth caught my attention because of its colorful art style and tactical RPG combat, a style of game I tend to gravitate towards. What sets it apart from other RPGs I’ve played in recent memory, is the fact that a portion of the game is procedurally generated, which is also something I tend to enjoy when it’s done well. Wildermyth is currently in Early Access, but as the description says, it’s mostly done and fully playable now. Features are already there, it’s just more polish and additional implementation and they seem sure that they’ll be releasing this year, and I’ll agree that they’re pretty close.

Like any party based RPG, you’ll start out with a group of youngsters that aren’t quite adventurers but are thrust into dealing with a world-ending problem. There are only three starter classes to choose from, but as the game progresses some expected and some unusual paths present themselves to give you additional strength and powers. The characters are randomly assigned names, character traits, appearances and you are forced to start with a Warrior, Hunter and Mystic. Sub classes naturally evolve from these and there are various build paths that I explored during my first game. You can take things further by fully customizing the characters but I let things pretty much lie after a few rerolls.

The entire first campaign is essentially a tutorial, but it took me a little over four hours to complete, so that’s more of a starter campaign than anything. Still, it is a good practice to roll through because by the end you understand the systems of the game but still see the potential for further adventures and this in itself is exciting. I haven’t had a game get its hooks into me so easily in quite some time, and were this already a finished title I still think it would have been good enough. I’m looking forward to see what happens with further development. So most of your time is spent pretty evenly between an over-world map where you move your heroes around and perform various tasks, while periodically getting story interruptions. Many of the story bits lead into encounters, and then you’ll shift to a randomized battlefield and participate in a turn-based battle. This controls as you would expect, with action points allowing you to move attack and sling spells. There are some unique facets to combat that I’ll cover shortly. Besides moving to new areas via the map, you’ll also need to build bridges, defenses/tile improvements and periodically need to repel incursions of enemy forces. You’ll also periodically gain access to new heroes via recruitment, and soon enough you’ll be training additional characters and have a full party of five and then some.

Combat reminds me of early iterations of D&D. The characters are sort of 2D paper figures that stand in a 3D space. They move as if they are on bases and someone is tapping them in each square as they progress. Attacks are pretty basic in their animation, but this gives it more of a feel of playing a well-penned D&D session that also has some pretty fun combat. There are only so many tricks that are thrown at you, but combat is still pretty satisfying. I was happy with how my characters developed, got new gear and new abilities and all along the way there was still challenge but also the sense of becoming more powerful.

Combat doesn’t always go like you would like, and characters can die or get maimed, but that adds some charm to the game. You don’t lose someone powerful that you have grown attached to, but they might lose an arm. This comes with some benefits as well, as one of my hunters ended up losing an arm, so he could no longer use a bow, but had a cool hook hand that he could use to attack with as well, so he became a stealthy dual-wielder instead. One of my Warriors ended up being enchanted by a crow spirit and got a crow’s head that provided a “peck” special move, and later I’d get the opportunity to further transform, gaining a crow’s claw that provided a strong attack. It’s stuff like this that’s a little off the wall but also really cool and reminiscent of D&D stories.

This campaign was split into three chapters and was the story was set up to have a specific villain. Each chapter closes when a main story objective is complete, however individual characters periodically ask more help with tasks and further their growth. You’ll be rewarded various crafting materials for how many territories you control on the world map and also gain a certain number of years worth of peace. During peace time, you’ll get little glimpses into your characters lives and even recruit your own progeny. My hunter’s son was trained as a warrior and already started with higher tier gear than normal recruits.

The third chapter leads up to the final battle, and because the passage of time occurs no matter what actions you take in the game, they grew old over the course of one session. The final battle was quite the challenge, but I managed to beat it while only losing one character who I believe was killed permanently, but it’s sort of irrelevant. The game is designed to give you compact stories in short-ish sessions. I imagine all three chapter games will take approximately the same amount of time to complete, while the larger five chapter games will probably add a few more hours per game. The Legacy system allows for some of this to continue on. At the end I was able to choose one of my characters to sort of have a second life, though they don’t go into detail about how this happens, but it means they start off a little more powerful for the next go-round. People that you memorialize carry certain things over as well, so there is a sort of rogue-like account progression that affects future games. From what I understand they are a ton of different encounters already programmed into the game, with more coming down the pipeline, and they’ve added a campaign creation tool as well. So Wildermyth might just be the next best thing when it comes to playing D&D. I really enjoyed my play session, and I look forward to playing it some more. I may look into making my own campaign as well, which could provide an additional creative outlet. Whatever the case, if any part of this sparked your interest I might suggest checking the game out. It’s fully worth the coin, and should only get better.

Early Access Gem: Shardbound

Games that combine multiple genres into one are becoming a trend, don’t you think? We’ve had plenty of CCGs developed over the years, both in physical and digital form. Tactical, turn-based games are also nothing new, with various iterations spanning multiple generations of consoles and PCs. We can come up with many examples of genre-bending or melding just in the last few years, with standouts like MOBAs and the new Hero Shooter genre taking center stage. The free to play model itself has also gone through various iterations, though the lockbox has taken precedence, and despite these differing costs to speed up progress, typically you can play the full game without spending anything at all (at least with the fair developers).

Enter Shardbound. A free to play title that has a cash shop, that is a combination of CCG and tactics, that sounds like it would be a little on the weird side but works fairly well. In the above picture you can see a bit of everything, and that will allow me to explain. So, just like Hearthstone and other CCGs, you’ll have a deck of cards to take with you into battle. You also have a Hero unit. This unit will have its own special ability, along with being a representation of your life total. They start with 25, and if they die it’s game over, no matter how many minions you have left standing. Like Hearthstone, you’ll get one mana per turn. More like Magic: The Gathering, cards have various effects and you can play from your graveyard. Like Final Fantasy Tactics, Shining Force et al, you’ll be using turn based tactics to eliminate the enemy. That’s the main gist of it. The tutorial will do a better job explaining things than I just did, but if you’ve played any of the games I’ve mentioned here you will likely understand things rather quickly.

Deckbuilding looks like fun. You’ll use a hero and their color cards (think class specific cards) and then flesh out your deck with various neutral cards. I rather enjoyed the purple deck, being graveyard focused. Some of the Heroes feel better than others, but their decks tend to make up for their own shortcomings. As of now the game is in Early Access so it has a bunch of temporary artwork and is definitely not complete but it is very playable in this state.

The game provided me with 30 chests right off the bat. In them, I received cards of different rarities, and that seems just about the norm. Buying chests seems a little steep and probably unnecessary at this point, but the welcome pack comes with another 30 chests for $5, so that’s not bad. I’m sure you will have ways to earn or craft the cards as well as the game is further developed.

 The interface is nicely done. Rather than having a series of menus, the devs decided it would be cooler to have your character represented by a space ship, and a series of floating islands represent the various menus. You have a home base of sorts, where you can train, build you deck, buy stuff and form a “house” which I assume is just like a clan. From there you fly to other “shards” where the PvP battles take place. I did well in my first couple of fights but there is definitely a learning curve as to how all of the mechanics work. Overall though, I think this one is worth checking out!

H1Z1 Splitting into Two Titles


According to the post Daybreak made on Steam, H1Z1 is going to be split into two separate games. The “normal” version of the game, which is how the game launched into Early Access last January, is now going to be called H1Z1: Just Survive. The other title, a “fast-paced shooter comprised of multiple, fight-to-the-death game modes, including Battle Royale” is going to be called H1Z1: King of the Kill.

The first question that came to mind was “Do I have to pay more money to get these games?” but that was answered a little way into the post, in that anyone who already owns H1Z1 will get access to both games for free (or the price you paid when you first picked it up). Otherwise, the two titles will be $20 a piece after the separation occurs. As to when that’s going to happen: February 17th is split day. So if you haven’t picked up the game, now would be the time to do it, especially since the game is on sale right now for $15. The post also mentions that the King of The Kill version of the game is supposed to come out of Early Access and hit consoles this summer. Just Survive apparently still needs more development time before both of those goals are met for it as well.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. It was apparent that KotK (formerly Battle Royale) was seeing more attention than the Survival portion of the game. Sadly, the Survival portion of the game is the part that sounded the most MMO-like, and seemed like a great idea before they made PvE servers and added BR, which essentially cut the player base in half (the latter part is according to their post). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy BR and I think the game functions well in short bursts, but you don’t get that survival feel they were originally going for. It’s a lobby shooter at that point, and honestly doesn’t function as well as most lobby shooters I’ve played. On one hand, I think that perhaps they should have just nixed the idea of Survival altogether and capitalized on the fact that BR is a fun/popular mode and expanded upon that (which they are doing with King of the Kill). On the other hand, Just Survive is more of what most early adopters wanted out of the game. Personally I haven’t been playing it (the last time I fired it up was last August according to Steam) because of my policy of not over playing Early Access games.

I do like this:

“Through in-game feedback, as well as discussions on Reddit, Steam, and Twitter, our community has been influential to us in arriving at this decision.”

This means the company has held true in its attempt to be transparent and apply community feedback. However, this part doesn’t necessarily make sense:

“The more we developed this game with you, our community, the more we realized that in order to fully support both aspects of H1Z1, and their respective players, we needed to make them their own stand-alone games supported by their own dedicated development teams. Many players in the community have been discussing splitting the game and we’ve heard you loud and clear. We want to make sure we give both titles the support they need and deserve to truly flourish.” 

Weren’t there already devs working on both sides of the game? Aren’t you basically splitting up the team to focus on separate sections of the game who were already doing so? I guess if they are hiring on more employees to work on the separate games then this part makes sense, but otherwise it’s a bunch of words that really make no difference. Plus, sometimes listening to the most vocal parts of your community doesn’t necessarily make the game better. In this case it might, there’s no way to tell just yet. But honestly I think perhaps the better move is to keep the Just Survive portion titled as simply H1Z1, and call the King of the Kill game something entirely different, because it basically isn’t what we thought of when we were purchasing H1Z1. I’d like to see both games flourish, though I think the focus here on making them separate is sort of silly considering they are making an effort to keep them under the same name. Splitting the game off and calling it Battle Royale would have made so much more sense, and would keep people who are interested in only one part of the game from being confused about what to expect from the similarly titled games.

The trouble with the titles now is that they are both entering crowded markets. The Survival genre has exploded over the past couple of years and H1Z1 was already fashionably late to the party. The lobby shooter space is similarly crowded, and without definitively improving their gunplay the King of the Kill game is going to suffer because of it. Having the two games meshed together, giving you a survival experience with the added ability to “unwind” with some session based FPS action was something that set H1Z1 apart from the pack. Now separate, the two games don’t have anything that makes them stand out. Perhaps further development will change my opinion on this, but I have my doubts about the wisdom of this decision.

On a side note, I’m starting to lose my faith and loyalty towards Daybreak. Recently I made a post about Smed and Pixelmage, and in that I stated that I don’t hate the guy despite his repeated failings. The same stood true for DBG, and the reason for my fanboyism or whatever you want to call it (for both DBG/SOE and Smed) was because of the fact that they were responsible for making two of my favorite MMOs and I let them get away with murder because of it. Now that I don’t play either of those MMOs anymore and don’t think I will again, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand behind any of the above mentioned names. I do hope to try out Hero’s Song if it ever makes it to market (mainly because it’s cheap and still sounds interesting), and I will give these H1Z1 games a whirl once they are separate and further developed, but it’s becoming clear to me that I should probably take my money elsewhere. Despite hating the fact that EA/Activision have such a monopoly on games that I rather enjoy and having pushed some shitty business practices onto the market, I still feel like they don’t make stupid decisions as often as the other guys. I hate to be the on giving the greedy mega corporations more money, but when the little guys keep shitting the bed, we have to make a choice with where to go next. I’m not going to stop gaming, so I’m not going to stop spending money, but I’m starting to feel less guilty for buying the latest Call of Duty and Battlefront when the little guys aren’t delivering something worth while.

Talkback Challenge #2: Early Access and Kickstarter #NBI2015

For the second NBI Talkback Challenge, the committee poses the question:

Early Access and Kickstarter: Do you support unfinished games?

A couple of years ago, my answer would have been a resounding “NO,” but times have changed. Back then I would have told you that throwing your money away was pointless. Either the project wouldn’t deliver and you’d be out your money, or you’d get access to a broken game — never to be fixed. Full of negativity, I was.

These days I have embraced both platforms, but I am picky with what I will support. I still feel like the general trend of games coming out in Early Access and then staying in perpetual Alpha or Beta stages for years is sort of ridiculous. We used to get Alpha/Beta access for free, now we pay for it. Probably the most memorable Early Access debacle for me was the $150 Landmark Alpha, but there are many more examples to choose from.

There are pros and cons to each program, and here are a few off the top of my head:

KS/EA Pros:
-Support developers making projects AAA studios won’t
-Support indie developers who can’t get big time funding
-Get access to a game before launch
-Gain backer rewards that can be worth much more than the asking price
-Provide feedback that can help shape the project

KS/EA Cons:
-Just because you backed doesn’t mean the project will be successfully funded
-Some developers tug at nostalgia strings to get your money
-Some projects are scams
-Some ideas will never come to fruition, even with successful funding
-Devs can sometimes go MIA after cashing your paycheck

Kickstarter is seemingly a safer choice because if the project isn’t funded, you never get charged. However, there have been projects like Godus and many others that were funded and then the developers go missing and/or stop updating the game. Sometimes small teams will finish these games up, or they will just release in a broken state, sad and disappointing.

My personal experiences with Early Access games are many, while my experience with Kickstarter is still on-going. I chose to back the upcoming MMO Crowfall on Kickstarter a couple of months ago, which is supposed to come with Beta access and a “free” copy of the game. However, development is barely off the ground and we probably won’t see the game until 2016 at the earliest. So I will have to get back to you on that one. Either way I’m still hyped for Crowfall, and look forward to seeing how it changes the stale MMO gameplay that has plagued us for years.

When it comes to Early Access, I believe the first game I purchased was Nuclear Throne. It’s a rogue-like shooter, and it’s a blast to play. It was a great game the day I got it, and it’s been consistently updated week by week since I purchased it a year ago. I’ve made a few videos of the game over the past year, but here’s a good run too give you and idea of what it’s all about:

I love it, but I don’t understand why they’ve let it stay in Early Access for so long. It felt done when I bought it, and it feels done now — but the devs keep adding weapons, characters, and tweaking things. Perhaps they are close, but it seems weird to be tagged as an EA game at this point.

Another game I picked up around the same time was The Forest, and longtime readers will know that I’ve gushed about that game time and again. It’s another survival game with various elements, and though they added in multiplayer, there isn’t any PvP to this point. It’s basically a more realistic looking Minecraft, with cannibals occupying the same Forest. I recommend it, as development has been steady and improvments have been great. I just hold off playing it too much because I’m waiting for it to be done, which is my policy with most Early Access games.

H1Z1 is the Early Access game that I jumped into headfirst that is probably the most controversial in my collection. For some reason it split the MMO community right in two. I was super hyped for it because I have been a long time SOE (now Daybreak) fan, and the initial hype surrounding the game made it seem like an MMO designed with me in mind. I love Zombies. I love survival horror. I love PvP. I bought it when Early Access came to Steam, and I wasn’t disappointed. But then they started wiping servers and making big changes, so I decided I’d let it sit for a while. I don’t like progress that is taken away, which is why most Alpha/Beta testing hasn’t been too appealing to me. Anyway, I’m still a fan of the game and I will continue to watch its progress.

There are a handful of other games I have on my Steam list that are tagged as Early Access, though I haven’t put much time into them:

Delver is a first person pixel-art rogue-like that Doone gifted me last year. I like it, but then a bigger team put out Ziggeraut, and it completely takes the cake. Still, Delver is a great game from a one man team, and with Steam Workshop integration, people can make mods for it. I look forward to seeing the finished product.

Broforce is a game from a developer that supported the NBI last year (Free Lives), and gave us a bunch of keys to distribute. I got my hands on one and some of us NBI folk got together to play some co-op, and it is a blast. The bros are great, the nostalgia is great, the art is awesome, and there are so many EXPLOSIONS. A fully destructible environment means each playthrough is going to be different, and multiple modes add replay-ability as well. A limited free version called the Expendabros is available on Steam as well.

I won a contest run by Isey of I Has PC earlier this year in which I gained a copy of Project Zomboid, which is another zombie survival game presented in a different way. It’s isometric and pixellated, but has a deep crafting system and some brutal difficulty. I haven’t played it as much as I would like, as I need someone more experienced in the game to give me some pointers, but it’s still a game I think would be worth supporting. There is a free demo on Steam that you can try if you’re interested.

In one of many Humble Bundles I have picked up, Prison Architect was part of the package. It wasn’t one of the games I was after in the bundle if memory serves correctly, but it is a pretty well designed game. If you are into building and management sims, this game would be right up your alley. For me, it was a bit of a learning curve because the tutorial is a little light and I haven’t played too many games in this genre, but the developers are consistently updating it, and it’s worth a look if this is your thing.

Lastly, the newest addition to my Early Access library is none other than Darkest Dungeon. Many of the people on my blogroll have picked the game up, and I haven’t read a single bad thing about it, save for not being finished. Apparently there is a portion of the game that has yet to be added, and some funny quirks about the gameplay that need to be addressed. In my couple of hours playing it, I had a blast and didn’t run into anything game-breaking. I have sort of left this one to collect dust though, as I had too many other additions to my gaming library right at the same time and it’s been on the back burner. I don’t feel so bad as it’s an unfinished game, so maybe by the time I dump more hours into it, it will be closer to done.

So I guess my answer to the original question is Yes, I support unfinished games. But as you can see, I don’t have that many of them, so I am selective with those that I choose to support. There are probably quite a few other alphas and betas that I have taken part in, but I’ll leave it at this. I don’t have the inclination to dig any deeper into my media/post libraries.

Here’s some random screens from some of the above games, just because:

#NBI2015 #talkbackchallenge #earlyaccess #kickstarter

The Forest 0.16 – Unity 5 Update

It’s been a while since I talked about The Forest. The last time I played it was a few weeks ago, when I was attempting to play the multiplayer with my sister whom had recently picked up the game. It played like shit, so I stopped rather quickly, and haven’t been back to it. I would like to play it some more, especially now that the game has seen a major graphics overhaul and improvements to the netcode. I will get back to you when I manage to get a multiplayer game in, but I will include some screens of the new graphics engine after the patch notes:

This patch switches The Forest over to Unity 5. Replacing all the old shaders with new PBR materials and textures. We also went and replaced almost all our tree models, implemented a new billboarding system, and put in a first version of our new ocean shader.

Plant shaders now have sub surface scattering, our skin shaders have been rewritten, and many other visual tweaks and improvements have been made to the look of the world, we’re really excited to hear what you think.

For multiplayer we’ve introduced a new network prioritization algorithm to provide more relevant updates of remote entities to players. This means smoother multiplayer gameplay and although the lag isn’t completely removed, we’re confident we can continue to tune in the coming weeks.

Some new graphics options should help those with slower computers get the game running faster, including a new level of detail setting which will allow you to raise or lower the view distance of most elements from Ultra all the way down to Ultra low. Across the board everyone should see some performance improvements.

Sick of dying in a cave and having no idea how you got there? We added a drag away by cannibals system! You’ll now see yourself carried off through world.

New bendable grass means you can see it part slightly as rabbits run through it, making them easier to track.

Some major animal improvements mean geese can now fly from lake to lake, and if you like you can follow them and watch how they spend their days. Plus, Deer now no longer run headfirst into trees!

Player audio has been partially implemented, along with a new take on the female skinny audio.

Due to the massive re-working of some of the environment and terrain we’ve had to wipe save games this patch!

As always, please continue to post your bug reports and feedback in the Discussions area of the Community Hub

Version 0.16 Changelog:
New options menu setting ‘Render Type’ will allow you to switch between new deferred renderer(recommended for modern computers) and Legacy renderer (recommended for older computers)
Full pbr shaders on all items. Reworked most textures to fit new lighting.
Reflection probes added.
New ocean shader (work in progress)
Better bow aiming – sight added to bow. bow tracks better with camera view when aiming up and down. Looks better now when viewed by another player
Animals will now attempt to dodge trees, obstacles and other animals
Fixed rebreather’s air resetting to 0 after loading a saved game
(Multiplayer) Reworked the network prioritization algorithm to provide more relevant updates of remote entities to players (Smoother, less jittery enemies)
Upgrade balance: Inverted bonus curve, it now goes from small (10%) to big (100%)
Fixed booze upgrades still not showing up for some weapons
Added a small outline to chat text to make it visible in bright lighting conditions
Fixed issue preventing to lock floors/roofs on multiple walls on the same height level
Grabber system now turned off when in in inventory/book/pause menu or while placing a building (ie, placing a building near water will no longer trigger drinking)
New snapping grid gizmo to help with manual placing of experimental floors & roofs (tip shows the current lock position and is big enough to be seen from either side of a wall)
Experimental Roofs now snap back to closest edge on current support (ie the wall you’re putting it on)
Goose simulator added. Geese will now fly between lakes and swim around acting like geese
Fixed Bon Fire not lightable
Fixed flying food on rock fire pit
Fixed burn lizard scale
Added generic meat burnt
Fixed drying generic meat
Fixed Treehouse + Treehouse Chalet floor not buildable
Deer will now drink at lakes
Fixed issue where deer would run right through trees!
Dead birds now have a chance of spawning feathers when hit
Revamped cooking to allow eating burnt food but with far lesser gain
Player will now see himself briefly dragged away into a cave when knocked out but not killed.
New art added: Improved airline foodcart
Fixed bug where climbing rope for first time would sometimes cause it to release right after climbing
New trees! New bark and leaf types.
New billboard system with lit billboards and rotation
Unity 5 reflection probe system added
New clouds/sky
All shaders switched to use new unity pbr
Dirtied up and improved regular enemy textures
New pbr skin shader!
In game controls remapping, both in Title & Main scene options
Falling particle leaves now accumulate on ground
Fixed logs flying up into air when trees were cut
Fixed physics on some trees not colliding with terrain when falling
New art added: dead small trunk
Graphics options: added rendering patch selection
Graphics options: added new setting to turn off sunshine occlusion
Graphics options: added new setting to tune Level of Detail
Graphics options: SSAO setting now also changes sample count
Graphics Settings now properly show the saved preset name after restarting the game
Graphics Settings: Renamed “Laptop” level to “Ultra Low”
Fixed survival book entries not clickable on occasion
New art added: new version of plane food! plane tray, styrofoam cups and trays
New bushes- replaced 2 of the worst looking bushes with new type
New lake shader added! reflective and with murkiness
New dead trees! Better textures and models, and now all cuttable!
Better shark ragdoll
Jump animation added to player
New combat move – Flying axe attack. Attack downwards with axe while jumping to perform a powerful ground chop.
When falling from high up, player will briefly stumble to his hands and knees
You can now cook arms and legs (and … eat them – but you probably shouldnt)
Dead trees replaced and now cuttable!
New log type for buildings that matches carried log
(audio) New player sounds!
(audio) New female skinny audio!
New blueberry bushes!
New multiplayer octree based priority calculation
New art: Re-done plane seats
Fish and sharks are now also in multiplayer games!
Touch bending grass added! enemies, rabbits, animals and player will now slightly rustle the grass as they move through it (this is a first pass at this, next version will include better bending)
You can now climb fishing stands
Experimental Walls now block AIs (mutant & animals) from going through it
Fixed fire particles staying up after cutting down a burning tree
New world art: cliff wall variations.
Lighter now stays equipped when exiting/entering ropes
Added some additional optimizations and memory tweaks for 32bit machines that have less than 4gigs of usable ram
Fixed molotov fire never shutting down

The game looks fantastic in the new engine, and does seem to run a bit smoother. I won’t comment on the multiplayer improvements just yet, but here’s some shots of various areas in the game so you can see the improvements to the graphics:

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#theforest #patchnotes #unity5